On Saturday, December 9th, from 5-9pm, the historic brick streets of Abend and Garfield in Belleville, Illinois, will be lit with hundreds of luminaries as this special holiday tradition takes place. The streets will be closed off from cars so that you can enjoy these beautiful homes, all lit up in their holiday splendor, from a unique perspective.
Luminaries will light the route and extend up the sidewalks of a few homes that will be open to tour. For this week’s post, I’m going to feature the museums and homes that will be open… one of which is (drum roll please!) OUR home! If you’ve ever wanted to come tour The Brick and Maple for free, this will be your chance!
This is just a quick slideshow of the homes and museums open. More information and historical importance will be available AT these locations during the tour.
Also open is 509 Garfield Street, the Winker house, built sometime around 1876. You can follow this home’s adventure over on Instagram at @historicrevival
Enjoy warming stations throughout, refreshments at select locations, and jolly old St. Nicholas roaming about! And for the kids, each destination has a “Hidden Lincoln” for the kids to find and get a passport stamp.
As always, remember these are our neighbors homes. If you enter a home, feel free to ask questions but please be respectful. We are just a local group of history fanatics, passionate about the stories our homes have to tell. We are HAPPY to answer your questions but ask you understand if there’s an area roped or closed off to the public.
Remember that the homes that are open will have luminaries leading up their walkway– these are the only homes that are open! 😀
A lot of hard work has gone into this event and we are so excited to see you on Saturday. Use this as a reason to enjoy ALL our quaint, adorable downtown has to offer. Restaurants, shops, and our awesome German Christmas Market at the public square. Don’t forget, the Luminary Walk is TOTALLY free! We will have donation buckets at the open houses, though, for the Belleville Historical Society. Not required by any means.
Don’t let the cold keep you away this weekend. Bundle up and come enjoy Belleville!
My next post will be alllllll about Christmas decorations. You won’t want to miss it! So hit subscribe, follow, or get sneak peeks on our Instagram, @thebrickandmaple!
Lots of love and tidings of great joy,
The Brick and Maple family
As y’all know, my husband and I have been tirelessly researching the Romeiser family for months. We want to honor this house and the family as much as possible and feel like telling their stories is the best way to do that. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot out there and not a lot of lineage left to ask.
So, in my searches on Ancestry and beyond, I’ve decided to spread the search out to extended family members: aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. to see what I might be able to stumble upon. I started with the matriarch, Elise Hilgard Romeiser‘s, branch of the family tree.
She was born and raised here in St. Clair County and had several siblings. Her sister, Anna, married Edward Abend and lived directly next door. When comparing a portrait of Anna to one of Elise, you can absolutely see the family resemblance.
It’s simply undeniable!
In searching for information on Anna, I found the most exciting photo yet. The owner of the photo (the person who uploaded it to Ancestry) knows nothing about the photo besides the caption and the identity of the youngest person in the photo. Check it out:
The caption is “Family Reunion Abend, Easter 1908.” Now, could this mean Abend family reunion? Or family reunion ON Abend? Given the fact that the sisters were neighbors and close, I fully believe that this is an extended family photo and that it includes at least two Romeiser daughters… and everyone showing off their Easter Eggs! 😀
In 1908, Roland would have already passed away and (at this point), Petranella was already institutionalized. (Wondering what I’m referencing? Read about their stories here and here!) The eldest son, Theodore, was already out of the house. That leaves Emma Romeiser, Corona (we’ve yet to tell you her story!), and two younger sons Edwin and Alvin.
Now, this is purely speculation given that the only identity we’re sure of is that of young Edward Abend Jr (seated on the lap of the girl in the white dress. He would have been three.), I truly feel in my heart that we are looking at a photo of Anna, their third sister Emilie, and Elise, Emma, and Corona, and that they are all standing in the yard of either The Brick and Maple, or the Abend house next door.
I believe Emma is far right, almost next to her mother wearing black (could she still be in mourning over Roland and Petra?)… and perhaps Corona is the one behind her looking directly at the camera. In 1908, Emma would have been 28, Corona 21, Elise 59, and Anna 71. Could Edwin (aged 24) be standing next to Corona (wearing the hat)? Is it possible that the youngest Romeiser, Alvin (aged 15), is seated on the far left? It may be a stretch… but maybe it’s not.
The 1910 census lists Emilie as a resident of the house as well, so it stands to reason that she could have lived here in 1908 and simply stepped out with the rest of her family to snap this photo on Easter. Could Peter Romeiser be the photographer? Perhaps we’ll never know. But for now, I’m feeling like maybe someday we’ll find more hints about life here at The Brick and Maple over a century ago.
Prepare yourselves for about 7,000 pictures of our staircase… We are REALLY thrilled with how it turned out and I find myself just standing and staring at the beautiful wood that’s come back to life.
Here are a few shots of what it looked like before. Over the last 130 years, these floors have been painted, carpeted, and beat up. Not all of the treads are original but things like the landing are. The landing was in the worst shape as you can see in this second photo… carpet glue, paint, dirt, and years of wear-and-tear left it in dire need of some TLC.
Hubs took to woodwork like a fish to water. I swear, I don’t know how he just knows how to do stuff… but he does. First, as in every project we do, we made it safe. When it doubt, there’s ALWAYS lead in the paint… so we went the long, circuitous route of encapsulating ALL the paint on the stairs first, just to be safe. The last thing we’d ever want is to just take to sanding and then have lead paint dust particles floating in the air for forever. This step easily added a week to the project because it involved applying the goop, scraping the goop, properly disposing of the goop, cleaning said goop- a lot- and then letting it all dry.
Once it was dry, THAT’S when the sanding started. They started out like this:
Husband sanded and sanded and sanded. He would get up, sand for a few hours, work until midnight, and do it all again the next day…. but those floors.
Then they looked like THIS… so we got to testing stains and settled on Minwax’s Red Oak.
I stained the treads, painted the risers, AND did research. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a photo of a home built in the same time frame as ours. It was of their staircase and for a hot second I thought it WAS our house. I got REALLY excited… and then less excited when I realized it wasn’t. However, it had this stunning Newel post lamp that got me wanting one. I took to eBay and found the most beautiful antique French art nouveau piece. The price was right and it was on my doorstep three days later.
The art nouveau distinction leads me to believe it is 1900-1930s time frame The wiring was all original. It still worked but I was concerned with fire safety so I made an off handed comment about how it would just be decorative. Husband (remember when I called him the smartest person in the world?) was like, “Uh, why? I’ll just rewire it.” It was a very Elle-Woods-Gets-Into-Harvard moment when I said “You can DO THAT?” and he cocked his head to the side and was all “What? Like it’s hard?”
So he just went ahead and re-wired the darn thing. He even managed to keep the original switch. So now we have this beautiful, almost-period-specific piece of ART in our entryway. It is so, so beautiful. Now you can see why I can’t stop staring!
Now when my family gets here tomorrow for the holiday, they’ll be able to truly enjoy such a grand entryway staircase. ❤
To wrap up, here are some side-by-sides!
Enjoy your holiday. Be blessed, be thankful. We’ll talk soon!
The Brick and Maple
When I woke up this morning did I think… “huh, maybe I’ll paint the tub today.”? YOU BET I DID!
All week I’ve been planning on tackling this very easy, hour long project and just haven’t gotten around to it. But with Husband working SO hard on refinishing our main staircase and family coming in for Thanksgiving, I decided to go ahead and knock it out.
Literally all this project involved was 2 coats of Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch ultra cover Black Gloss on the tub itself and then Rust-oleum Hammered Copper on the claw feet. I hung a few pictures and decorated with a few items I had lying around the house. With ALL the colors going on in the bathroom, I really felt like black would help tie things together with the floor. I switched out the mirror for a 1930s black framed mirror and added darker artwork to bring it all together.
I felt like perhaps the art-deco mirror would be fitting seeing as this wasn’t originally a bathroom. See, when the Brick and Maple was built in 1887, they didn’t have indoor plumbing! This room was originally used as a second hallway connecting the dining room with the kitchen. When the bathroom was added sometime in the 30s-40s, the tub was placed and the walls were built around it. It’s a good thing I love it so much because that tub literally CAN’T go anywhere as it won’t fit through the door!
Ultimately I hope to add curtains and reglaze the inside of the tub so that it is bright and shiny glossy white, but for piddling around for an hour or two, I’d say this works out just fine. Enjoy our simple $100 before and after!
Rust-oleum, $9 for each can: $18 total.
Antique mirror: $15 at a vintage pop-up
White cabinet: $40, Amazon
Painting: $25 at St. Clair Antique Mall
As you can see, it was just… a lot. Between the floral wallpaper, the decal on the tub, the black and white floor, and (unseen) the gold pressed tin ceiling, I felt like it just needed to be streamlined. I’m really happy with the final product!
Doesn’t the black in the tub just tie it all together?
I absolutely ADORE the clawfeet… they may be my favorite little detail in the entire bathroom. Rust-oleum is a FABULOUS product to work with. This is only a single coat and I have 99.99% of the quart still remaining. Now to find other things to paint…
All said, I couldn’t be more pleased with how this simple afternoon project turned out.
Today I’m going to introduce you to the third floor… the part of the house that has been virtually untouched over the years. We don’t use it for anything other than storage at the moment but over time, we have BIG plans for this space.
Simply put, the space is huge. The third floor alone is twice as big as the first apartment Mr. Brick and Maple had when we were newlyweds. I’m not exaggerating.
Winding up the twisted staircase, you will discover limitless possibilities, endless potential, a virtual clean slate.
There are two clearly defined spaces. Going straight forward from the top of the stairs you’ll enter what we believe used to be a ballroom. The floors are original and HAVE NOT BEEN PAINTED. That fact alone makes me want to break out in dance! All they’ll need is a good sanding, some very basic patch repairs, and a nice glossy poly sheen.
In this space, I want to build a reading window with built-in bookcases and thick, plush linens for the most comfort. We’ll strip the column (it’s a chimney) to expose the brick. The corner hidden behind it will be a bright and cheery homeschool space. We’ll likely move our games and Wii system up here to use as a rec room as well!
These rooms at the top of the stairwell will require the most work- only because we envision making a guest suite out of the rooms. If we have people visiting and staying up here, I don’t want them having to go all the way downstairs to use the bathroom. We plan on converting the smaller room (on the left, surrounded in tan) into a small 3 piece bathroom. Sink, toilet, potentially a shower stall… and the room in surrounded in blue (with the two arched windows) will be a guest room.
I love all the little details in this space, like antique carved hinges and simply beautiful floors. These were covered in carpet when we moved in… pulling back the carpet pad was like hearing the Hallelujah Chorus.
When the original family sold the house in 1919, it began to change hands. A LOT. Prior to World War II it was converted into a boarding house with separate apartments. We believe part of this space would have been rented out either to soldiers and airman passing through Scott Air Force Base or to single women coming to the city to work. One of the more notable residents was a cousin of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Now whether or not their apartment was on the 2nd or 3rd floor, we can’t be sure. But it’s still a fun historical tidbit! 🙂
I am VERY excited about this project. It is something we will slowly be working on over time… right now I’m still in the Pinterest phase which is probably why I’m so excited. Check back with me later when the actual work starts and I question what exactly we got ourselves into.
The second child born to Peter and Elise, Emma Romeiser was born in 1880 and was likely the darling of the family. She was brought up in high society, was said to be a gifted Soprano singer with much interest in music, and was even chosen Maid of Honor at the Belleville Flower Carnival in 1899. Despite being well-to-do and of marrying age, Emma did not wed until 1912. She was 32.
A chance encounter at the Opera in St. Louis led to her meeting John Pannes, a St. Louis native living in New York. They were both attending the opera alone and were seated next to one another.
Upon striking up a conversation, they discovered they had a mutual friend who was prominent “in music” in the West. John and Emma even shared the same birthday, September 14th. It was quite the “meet-cute” that every romance writer tries to recreate.
After their marriage, Emma moved with her new husband to their home in Plandome, Long Island, New York. John was also well off, working as the manager of the Hamburg-American Steamship Lines. They would go on to have two children, a daughter Nathalie first (1915) followed by a son, Hilgard (1917- a year after the death of both of her parents). You’ll remember that Hilgard was Elise’s maiden name.
They lived in a cute little bungalow on Long Island with their two children and, in later years, John’s ailing mother Hilda. In fact, the home is still standing… and has an estimated value of $1.9 Million. Check out the full listing and more photos here!
As manager of the Hamburg-American’s New York office, John Pannes was in charge of lots of details concerning transatlantic passenger travel. Part of this involved scheduling zeppelin travel, particularly the Hindenburg’s comings and goings out of Lakehurst, New Jersey.
In 1937, John and Emma made the decision to sail to Germany so that they might fly back home on the Hindenburg’s first North American trip of the 1937 season. It would be their third transatlantic flight, having been passengers on the Hindenburg twice the year before. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that, unfortunately, it was also their last.
Emma and John Pannes both perished when the Hindenburg burst into flames on May 6, 1937. Their son, Hilgard, had traveled to Lakehurst to greet his parents and witnessed the disaster from the viewing deck. (Below on left are photos of John and Emma, then on right is John and Hilgard.)
Of the 72 passengers aboard, nearly half died. Those that survived went on to provide eyewitness accounts of those tragic final minutes. As it turns out, John had the opportunity to save himself, but insisted on finding Emma first. News reports from the day of wrote that, “One survivor of the disaster related Pannes might have escaped death had he not waited in an effort to save his wife. The survivor Otto Clemens said he was standing beside Pannes in the airship’s lounge and called upon Pannes to jump. Pannes replied, ‘Wait until I get my wife!’ There was not a second to lose. Clemens jumped and saved himself.” [Further research indicates that this would have been German Photographer Karl Otto Clemens, aged 27]
Friend and fellow passenger Margaret Mather wrote about the couple in the November 1937 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, writing about passing the time together and dining with John and Emma in the airship lounge. They ate sandwiches, looked through the mist so that Emma might point out their Plandome home to Margaret, and tried to bide their time while the weather cleared up enough to land the zeppelin.
Reports given indicate that as the Hindenburg approached the mooring mast at Lakehurst shortly after 7pm, Mr and Mrs Pannes were standing by the observation windows in the dining saloon. With the ship apparently just minutes away from landing, Emma decided to go downstairs to her quarters to retrieve her coat. She was never seen again.
At the time of the tragedy, John was 60 and Emma, 56. She left behind her children and four remaining Romeiser siblings (Theodore, Edwin, Corona, and Alvin).
In the years since the tragedy, articles, movies, tv shows, and books have all come out about or inspired by the Hindenburg. The Panneses are even featured in the pilot script for NBC’s show Timeless. One book is Time Loves A Hero which surmises that a time-traveling space scientist aboard the doomed zeppelin actually caused a rift in the space-time-continuum and altered history. Other publications propose that John and Emma did not, in fact, perish on the Hindenburg… but were instead abducted by aliens and are still alive today in alternate universe.
What we know for a fact is that yet more sadness and tragedy befell the Romeiser family even after the deaths of Roland, Petranella, Elise and Peter. But the stories don’t stop here… like we’ve said before, hours of research have gone into this house and this family. What follows is more speculation, more blurred storylines, more confusing heartache. All we can do is stop for a second and take pause to honor all the members of the Romeiser family, in particular a loving couple who met their fate too soon.
Before I even get to how our living room looks now, let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time (…last month), my husband was already living and working in Illinois while I was back at our old house in North Carolina packing our entire house. Packing and packing and packing. It was Box City. In the ten days I had to prep the entire house for our move, I had also been selling furniture left and right. I sold our lawn mower, our grill, our wood chipper, our guest bed, our kitchen dinette set, our ENTIRE dining room suite of a bar, hutch, and 8-seater table with two leaves. Our load was lightening and it felt GREAT. I rented a 27′ U-haul, picked up said truck AND backed it into my driveway, and waited for the movers to come the next day to load the truck. I honestly, truly believed we wouldn’t have an issue with space. They arrived at 8 in the morning, took one look at our house, one look at the truck and said… “that ain’t all gonna fit.”
The movers spent the next 4 hours playing 3-D tetris with our stuff. Now, I am by no means a hoarder. We had a lot of boxes BUT, BUT, BUT, we had a 4 bedroom house and we homeschool. So there are lots of books and science kits and art supplies… but considering all the furniture I sold, everything should have fit.
There I go with that dirty ‘S’ word again… SHOULD. Yeah, it didn’t. They loaded everything they possibly could but there was still out entire back shed and various pieces of furniture that didn’t make it onto the truck. I was faced with either renting a trailer or leaving it all behind. I started throwing things overboard. To our neighbor went the wheelbarrow, to the curb went a cheap IKEA desk that was easily replaceable. One piece, though, was a family heirloom rocking chair that my grandma used to rock my mom, that I used to rock my babies, that my sisters will use if and when they have kids… I couldn’t just abandon it. (No fears! My amazing neighbor is holding it for me until we can go back and get it.)
I ramble on and on about this because once we DID get here to The Brick and Maple, we moved everything in and I said to my husband, “I don’t want these couches anymore.”
After taking up valuable real estate on the truck, we literally turned right around and sold them once we got here. He’s patient and he loves me and I do what I want.
Move in day!
We listed the couches on Facebook Marketplace and then went to pick out something that fit better in the space. The room is classically Victorian. Huge 12′ windows, pocket doors, a beautiful light fixture, and a fireplace that is the focal point of the room. Part of the struggle was wanting to maintain a historic feel while ALSO being comfortable. This is our home and we live in it… we didn’t want to sacrifice style for comfort or history for modern convenience. I think what we ended up with is the perfect blend of plushness without being fussy.
The couches got lots of hits on Marketplace and we lined up someone to come get them the day before the new stuff was delivered. It was the perfect setup: we wouldn’t have to worry about not having anything to sit on for multiple days, and the space would be open when the delivery people arrived… so naturally they never showed up. Now instead of having to worry about having no couches, we had 5 couches. It was Couch City.
Thankfully we found new buyers and only had to bump into furniture for 5 days. Now our living room is streamlined and not filled with enough couches to seat a small army. We have decided to hang the amazing antique lattice window I found at Vintage Market Days on the open space on the wall. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out our Instagram!)
Now I get to wrap my head around decorating for Christmas. It will involve charts and graphs and a planner. If you haven’t already heard, we are one of the lucky homes that gets to be open to tour during the 3rd Annual Belleville Luminary Walk this December. Decorations need to be ON POINT. I was built for this. I am ready.
Check back next week for my next historical post. This one involves the aforementioned major 20th century event. How is The Brick and Maple and the Romeiser family connected to this event… and what do you think it could be? Comment below with your guesses. (And if you’re one of the few who already knows- don’t spoil it!)